News Release - New Opera's Middlesbrough Premiere - Photograph 1


This Saturday (June 20th) at 7pm, a spectacular new opera, especially written to commemorate the 800th anniversary of King John’s sealing of Magna Carta at Runnymede, will be performed at Sain t Mary’s Cathedral, Middlesbrough.

In an historic and exciting collaboration between the cathedrals of Middlesbrough and Durham, The Great Charter, which has been devised and composed by Timothy Craig Harrison, Director of Music for the Diocese of Middlesbrough, and librettist PG Hodgson, explores humanity’s continuing struggle for social justice, both under King John in the 13th Century and in a futuristic totalitarian state controlled by The Protector.

The huge cast and orchestra includes professional singers and musicians along with students from Durham University, the Royal Academy of Music, London, and choristers from Middlesbrough Cathedral.

Pupils from St Edward’s, St Augustine’s and St Bernadette’s Catholic primary schools in Middlesbrough are also taking part.

The Durham Singers will begin the evening with a performance Great is the Lord, by Elgar, and The King and the Robin, Philip Moore’s setting of an Andrew Motion poem written for St Edward’s millennium celebration in 2005.

Librettist, PG Hodgson explained: “Any tale of oppression and injustice remains relevant for all time and Timothy and I felt that a double narrative would increase the immediacy of the issues being put on stage. The Great Charter is not just about the Magna Carta and the conflict between King John and the Barons, there is a parallel futuristic story told in alternate scenes about a totalitarian state run by The Protector.”

Composer Timothy Craig Harrison said: “It was important that this opera should be able to reach out and include as many people as possible. The Great Charter is an opera for everyone; adults and children. We wanted everyone to enjoy being part of it either as an actor, singer, orchestral musician or member of the audience. Judging by the ecstatic reception the opera received from a packed audience at its premiere in Durham Cathedral last week, we have clearly succeeded.”

News Release - New Opera's Middlesbrough Premiere - Photograph 2

Following the Durham premiere last week, Michael Sadgrove, Dean of Durham commented: “The Great Charter is a wonderful tribute to Magna Carta and hard-won freedoms. Powerful, inspiring, funny, beautiful, moving. A marvellous achievement by so many.”

The leading young British composer Thomas Hyde said: “The Great Charter is, quite simply, the best new composition I have heard for a long time. Brilliantly inventive, superb in bringing so many different groups together (professional and amateur) and full of wonderful tunes superbly orchestrated. Bravo to all involved.”


Tickets are £10 (£8 concessions, under-16s free) and are available from the Gala Theatre Box Office in Durham at, by calling 03000 266600 and on the door.



Photos: John Attle of Durham Photographic Society.

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